Dunedin celebrates its first-ever World Refugee Day
Dunedin Tamil Society (DTS) was formally formed in November 2016, with the aim to cherish, grow and share Tamil language and culture in Dunedin. There are around 100 Tamil families in Dunedin and wider areas, mainly from India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We also operate a radio show in Tamil at the Otago Access Radio station. We organize about five events every year including Pongal, Tamil New Year, Eid get-together, Deepavali function, and Christmas in the park.
This year, we realized the significance of refugee resettlement in Dunedin, and the connection of Sri Lankan families who have been dispersed as refugees due to our 30-year-long civil war.
Now that we have a home in New Zealand, we decided to recognize those who have suffered and welcome them to our city, and share the rich culture that Dunedin has got to offer.
There are now about 400 former refugees settled in Dunedin.
Thus, in a first of its kind event in Dunedin, the Dunedin Tamil Society spearheaded a cross-cultural event in conjunction with the Red Cross, Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council, New Zealand Police, English Language Partners and Otago Muslim Association, with the primary objective of improving connectedness and networking among our residents that are from diverse backgrounds.
The event was World Refugee Day held on July 1.
It was an amazing evening, and the hall was jam packed. There was standing room only.
While we were expecting 250, almost 550 people came. Most of the former refugees settled in the city came. There were 12 cultural times followed by a multicultural fashion show. This included performance by a sufi group in the city, Indian, Irish and Chinese dancing, Japanese drumming, and a kapa haka.
Special guests at the event included National MP Michael Woodhouse, Human Rights Commission race relations adviser Rakesh Naidoo, and Dunedin Imam Shaykh Asrarul Haque Obaidullah.
We couldn’t have done it without the supporters, sponsors, volunteers and the entire Tamil community of Dunedin.
- by Lux Selvanesan, Dunedin Tamil Society